The Echoes of the Mind – Emotion

Emotion

“When a man is prey to his emotions, he is not his own master.” ~ Baruch Spinoza

A feeling is a perceptual reaction to an environmental or mental stimulus. A feeling develops into a more sustained emotion via emotive cognition, which is appraisal of a situation based upon one’s empathic temperament and experience, absent indifferent reason as the prime assessor.

“All our reasoning ends in surrender to feeling.” ~ French polymath Blaise Pascal

Whereas feelings are transitory emotions are remembered in the context in which they arise. This owes to reveling in the stimulation that an emotion provides. Emotional sustain is a product of evocative desire, irrespective of emotive content or the object of desire.

Emotions express affiliative identity. Cognized reaction to an object or situation bifurcates in a way that emotively translates into affinity or rejection.

“The emotions and their physical expressions tell us how the mind is acting and reacting in a situation it interprets as favorable or unfavorable.” ~ Alfred Adler

Positive emotions come from identifying with the object of perception. This is affirmatively felt as an attachment. Conversely, dislike arises with what one cannot identify with, leading to repulsion.

There are no neutral emotions. Emotions are inherently a valenced affect: either positive or negative. Either way, physiological arousal accompanies emotions, correlated in intensity. As such, emotions are readily transmitted through nonverbal communication.

“The emotions are not merely a psychological but also a physiological subject, for they act upon the body with remarkable, often dangerous power.” ~ Johann Friedrich Herbart

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Through experience emotions coalesce about sensate objects or contexts, engendering an emotional complex. Beyond polarity, emotions in an emotional complex may be both positive and negative: what is commonly called mixed emotions.

Mixed emotion complexes are particularly compelling, especially if the object of them is one of continuing association. The combination of affinity and rejection in an unresolved state especially excites the mind, as it invokes intractable problem-solving. Objects of mixed emotion are often objects of fascination.

Motivationally, emotions are a 2-faced coin: love and lack thereof. The edge of the coin is fascination, which is the attraction of unresolved interest – the kissing cousin to curiosity. Whereas inquisitiveness is instinctual intellect tickled by the desire to understand, fascination is emotion tethered to an object of attraction. Curiosity is sated by comprehension. In contrast, fascination easily lingers past understanding: a perpetual emotion machine of titillation.

Eventually the mind renders a judgment of affinity or repulsion to an object of mixed emotions, even as the emotional mixture may linger. This conflict is resolved either rationally, with regard to healthy self-interest, or emotively, when the emotive stimulation proves particularly pungent.

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Emotions are an evolutionary mechanism for memory retention, and a deceptive tool of the mind to have one invest in the illusion of material existence: to believe that actuality is reality (naïve realism).

Human emotions are no different than other animals. They emanate from the same sources: ecological and social interactions.

The environment has a significant impact on emotions. Light is exemplary: positive people are more optimistic on sunny days, whereas a bright day depresses those prone to gloom.

“Human beings start to couple phenomena and feelings at the very beginning of life. Even infants only days old react to sensations emotionally.” ~ American psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan

It is likely that all organisms, and perhaps even cells, have emotions or their analogue, as the need for selective memory retention is selfsame.

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Throughout life, sensory experience of the world comes with emotive labels attached. These tags provide the index by which memories are formed and learning performed.

Early experiences of emotional abuse or confusion, especially associated with parents, sow the potential for psychological problems throughout life. Such negativity can be carried to future generations.

“Traumatic experiences in childhood can alter behavioural responses and increase the risk for psychopathologies across life, not only in the exposed individuals but also in their progeny.” ~ Swiss behavioral zoologist Isabelle Mansuy

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Emotions serve as an instinctual determinant of episodic memory. Emotionally charged experiences are remembered, whereas the mundane is easily forgotten.

“The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.” ~ Canadian neurologist Donald Calne

Emotions create a focal context to a situation. Emotions provoke signification: an assessment of meaning.

When the emotional takeaway from an event is strong, conceptual conveyance is weakened. The dominant import of an event tends to be either emotional or intellectual, with emotion holding the trump card.

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Negative emotions tend to be more stimulating than positive ones. Those who accept such emotions often hold onto them because they are excitatory.

“The strangest and most fantastic fact about negative emotions is that people actually worship them.” ~ Russian esotericist P.D. Ouspensky

In contrast, purely positive emotions are merely pleasant. Enthusiasm is not an emotional state so much as a mental construct with emotive overtones.

Emotions bind the mind to the body, creating a cohesive unit. In the instance of negative emotions, response time quickens. Mind-body accord is epitomized by adrenalized reaction in dire circumstances.

The power of negative emotions owes to their evolutionary value. Strong feelings instantaneously focus attention, form the basis for decisive action, and prepare the body to act out a decision. Fear is the leading edge of the survival instinct.

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“Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it.” ~ Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh

Emotions of every stripe can be psychologically potent. All keenly felt emotions tax the system, even those that are most rewarding.

“Nothing vivifies, and nothing kills, like the emotions.” ~ French Catholic parish priest Joseph Roux

By their power of influence all emotions alter perception and cloud cognition. Their indulgence is a statement of character as much is the inclination to the poles of positivity or negativity in emotive appreciation.

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” ~ English historian Horace Walpole

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2 emotional charges propel humans through life: desire and fear. Desire involves the expectation of a positive emotional return: momentary gratification. Fear aims at avoiding a negative outcome and its fallout. Whereas desire is enthusiasm for an anticipated moment, fear flows from memory of the past.

Biases and decisions are emotional experiences. From them we try to steer away from trouble and toward a spot of satisfaction.

Positive Emotions

“The secret of life is never to have an emotion that is unbecoming.” ~ Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde

Potent positive emotions may be anticipated but they can never be convincingly cajoled, unlike negative emotions, which can be willfully aroused. A pleasant memory – nostalgia – is a modest emotional moment, whereas emotively negative recall can kindle an emotional fire.

Positive emotions warm with satisfaction. In contrast, negative emotions are bitter and corrosive, leaving one either hot or cold.

Happiness

“Happiness doesn’t depend on the actual number of blessings we manage to scratch from life, only our attitude toward them.” ~ Russian historian and novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Happiness is a generalized feeling of well-being. Unlike other emotions, happiness is not directed toward objects or events, but instead is a mood.

(Though happiness and bliss are similar, happiness feels energetic, whereas bliss is passively contented. Bliss emerges as a blip of fortified connectivity with the unitary field of Ĉonsciousness. Happiness also involves this connectivity, but happiness is an expression of vitality: a positive impulse of the life force (lengyre).)

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Social psychologists long reported that conservatives were happier than liberals: an inscrutable finding given that conservatism is founded in fear (uncertainty avoidance). Instead, conservatives are simply more likely to report being happy – what psychologists call self-enhancement: evaluating oneself in an unrealistically positive manner. Self-enhancement is motivational and helps maintain self-esteem. It becomes particularly prominent in situations where one feels threatened, including facing failure or blows to one’s self-esteem. In sum, conservatives are, at their best, merrily delusional. Chronic fear warps the mind in subtle ways.

“Research suggesting that political conservatives are happier than political liberals has relied exclusively on self-report measures of subjective well-being. This finding is fully mediated by conservatives’ self-enhancing style of self-report. Relative to conservatives, liberals more frequently used positive emotional language in their speech and smiled more intensely and genuinely in photographs.” ~ American social psychologist Peter Ditto et al

Love

“There is only one kind of love, but there are a thousand different versions.” ~ French author François de La Rochefoucauld

Love is an especially intoxicating emotion, albeit characterized by reserve. True love does not grasp, takes no possession, has no hold over its owner. It is merely admiration and appreciation for the existence of its object.

“Appreciation, not possession, makes a thing ours.” ~ American novelist Marty Rubin

The display of affection is the engine of all positive relationships, just as the expression of emotive empathy is the basis for trust. The foundation for human sociality is rooted in communication of these positive emotions.

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” ~ American writer Elbert Hubbard

Embracing the power of affinity, love is the most cherished emotion. Its pursuit is behind all meaningful social endeavors. Other emotions may be adjudged by their degrees of distance from love.

“Life is love and love is life. What keeps the body together but love? What is desire but love of the self? What is fear but the urge to protect? And what is knowledge but the love of truth? The means and forms may be wrong, but the motive behind is always love – love of the me and the mine. The me and the mine may be small, or may explode and embrace the universe, but love remains.” ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Empathy

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.” ~ American actress Meryl Streep

Empathy has 2 aspects: emotional and rational.

Emotive empathy comes in understanding the emotional expression of another. This empathy involves emotional identification, though does not imply affinity. One may be empathic without sharing the emotion, even in the context of projecting oneself into the same situation.

By contrast, sympathy engages emotional affinity in witnessing a situation of suffering. Sympathy is an empathic projection of imagined pain.

The rational side of empathy is understanding another’s point of view, irrespective of emotional context. Rational empathy differs from empathizing emotionally.

Though personal perspectives are invariably emotively based, rational empathy focuses on the cognitive aspect of an individual appreciating a certain knowledge base: how one looks at a situation given the information available. Via rational empathy a person can understand how someone else may view events or contexts from a different perspective. This is mind perception in action. (Mind perception and mentalizing are synonyms for inferring the mental states of others.)

“The youngest children have a great capacity for empathy and altruism.” ~ Alison Gopnik

As social creatures our capacity for empathy is innate. Emotional empathy is typically exhibited during the 2nd year of life.

Rational empathy requires the development of certain cognitive faculties, particularly theory of mind and emotive empathy, without which understanding others’ motivations is hopeless. By presenting interpersonal relations as abstracted dynamics, reading literary fiction helps sharpen one’s mentalizing.

Empathy is easily the most employable emotion. Its social utility cannot be understated. In understanding a variety of worldviews different from one’s own, rational empathy is the tool to deciphering others’ minds.

“Human morality is unthinkable without empathy.” ~ Dutch ethologist Frans de Waal

Compassion

“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other.” ~ South African politician Nelson Mandela

Compassion is empathic caring based upon identification with the target of the emotion. One may be empathic yet indifferent. Compassion engages the emotions in a motivating way.

“True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain, but also being moved to help relieve it.” ~ American psychologist Daniel Goleman

All religions make much of compassion. There is much personal satisfaction to be had in helping others.

The exercise of compassion opens one to a world larger than oneself, and so enlarges one’s worldview. Human societies would be much different if compassion was an operative universal value rather than merely the lip service it so often gets.

“Compassion is the basis of all morality.” ~ German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer

“A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.” ~ Socrates

Negative Emotions

“All emotions are pure which gather you and lift you up; that emotion is impure which seizes only one side of your being and so distorts you.” ~ Bohemian Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke

Negative emotions encompass both attraction and repulsion. Regardless, every negative emotion carries the seed for a spiral toward mental illness.

Negative emotions flow from a lack of contentment. Interpersonally, negative emotions are the antithesis of empathy.

It is a common perspective, even among psychologists, that negative emotions can be powerful motivators for good, if properly channeled. That viewpoint is the metaphorical equivalent to trying to sew a silk purse from a sow’s ear – like telling an alcoholic that he needs to learn to drink in moderation.

Negative emotions are spiritual poison. The remedy is realizing that all emotions are meritless: that placing value in emotions is animalistic in the worst way. From that perspective feelings are properly understood as transitory biological phenomena that deserve all the treatment of an itch one shouldn’t scratch. To embrace negative emotions is to willingly be a prisoner of the mind’s nefariousness.

Fear

“The strongest emotion is fear, and the strongest fear is of the unknown.” ~ American author H.P. Lovecraft

Fear is the strongest negative emotion, and the most primal. Fear instigates an instantaneous survival response.

“People react to fear, not love.” ~ American politician Richard Nixon

Revulsion is the backhand of fear. Condemnation is the cognitive equivalent of fear.

“Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.” ~ American journalist Dorothy Thompson

Sadness

“Sadness is always the legacy of the past; regrets are pains of the memory.” ~ Anonymous

If vocabulary truly expressed the wealth of human emotional experience, sadness would proliferate in dictionaries. Sadness has such a rich variety and history to have earned an abiding place in philosophy, psychology, religion, economics, and as a driving engine in the arts.

Both the ancient Greek Stoics and Buddha ascribed sadness as arising from unfilled desire, concluding that if desire were quelled contentment would be within reach. By the time materialism had sunk into the marrow of civilization the idea of deserting sadness by detachment had itself been abandoned. French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was typical in attributing sadness to wanting, which was, he supposed, part and parcel of the human experience.

“The existence of desire as a human fact is sufficient to prove that human reality is a lack.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Freud attributed all melancholia not to something missing, but to loss. Suckered successors in his wake carried the theme.

Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair. ~ American writer Andrew Solomon

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Sadness is the emotion that most easily lingers; pooling into depression from indulging the mind in its imagined loss. In contrast, boredom is banished in an instant; swept away by interested attention.

Rumination is the central determinant of why some emotions last longer than others. Emotions associated with high levels of rumination will last longest. ~ Dutch psychologist Philippe Verduyn

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The Judeo-Christian tradition puts sorrow and suffering as the price paid for displeasing God. This guilt trip is especially well known to Catholics.

Guilt & Shame

Guilt has very quick ears to an accusation. ~ English novelist Henry Fielding

Guilt and shame are respectively the private and public peas in the same emotional pod. Both are evolutionary artifacts of being social creatures.

Guilt is the internal recognition of a moral violation. Guilt is married to remorse, which is the emotional facet of regret. Regret may take the public form of apology.

Shame is the public conveyance of guilt, extending from act to persona.

While guilt is a painful feeling of regret and responsibility for one’s actions, shame is a painful feeling about oneself as a person. ~ American psychologists Merle Fossum & Marilyn Mason

The lack of empathy that characterizes psychopathy means that the psychopathic are unburdened by guilt and shame. Whatever boon that may seem, psychopathy is small compensation for having humanity at large as a perpetual reference-group.

Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame. ~ American author Benjamin Franklin

Anger

Frustration is the father of anger, provoked by feeling of loss of control over something to which one is emotionally engaged.

It is the clash between desire and fear that causes anger, which is the great destroyer of sanity in life. ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Anger is fear dressed in offense.

The angry people are those people who are most afraid. ~ American psychologist Robert Anthony

Anger can be instantaneous reaction, or it may rise like emotional magma. In other words, anger may be reflexive or cognitively cooked.

When anger rises, think of the consequences. ~ Confucius

As with fear, anger is especially corrosive, feasting on the quality of one’s life; but, whereas fear shutters aggression, anger is its kindling.

Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools. ~ German theoretical physicist Albert Einstein

Disgust

All disgust is originally disgust at touching. ~ German philosopher Walter Benjamin

Disgust is a cognitive emotion, not primal. Infants may be instinctually repulsed by an object when it appears to present a danger or otherwise is not appealing, but that is not disgust. Children do not grasp the meaning of an adult’s facial display of disgust until about age 5; before then, disgust looks like anger.

Disgust is acquired with experience. Disgust often develops from social distaste. Disgust is often cultural, in that the accepted practices of some societies are disgusting to others.

Humans are not the only ones who experience disgust.

Animals evolved a system to protect against health threats: the adaptive system of disgust. ~ French Iranian primatologist Cecile Sarabian

Disgust drives one away from those whose opinions are morally repugnant. Political thought is loaded with disgust.

Disgust serve biology in contamination avoidance. The strong impulse in response to disgust is to cleanse oneself. But the incitation provoked by disgust can carry too far. Women who are sexually assaulted badly want to scrub off the attack: 25% continue to wash excessively up to 3 months afterwards.

Disgust is a formula for pathology. Sexually abused children often feel that they can never wash off what was done to them. When that occurs, their psychological troubles are unending.

As a social force disgust drive manners. Social etiquette evolved as a means of disgust avoidance. By adhering to convention, one may ingratiate.

Disgust shadows desire. ~ American songwriter Robert Wells

Hate

Hatred is the anger of the weak. ~ French novelist Alphonse Daudet

The pitch-black opposite of love is hate, which is a puissant brew of fear and loathing. Hate is the ultimate emotional irony: attachment to an object of disgust. That makes hate the stupidest of emotions. No intelligent creature carries hate. Those who bellow its sounds deserve a deaf ear to its substance, steady condemnation in response, and compassion for the abject ignorance displayed.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. ~ American Baptist minister and civil-rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lust

Of all the worldly passions, lust is the most intense. All other worldly passions seem to follow in its train. ~ Buddha

The emotion of love is utterly non-sexual: love is admiration. In contrast, lust is intense carnal desire.

Other than being affinitive, the possessive nature of lust puts it at considerable remove from love. Whereas love is the most positive of emotions, lust is the intimate sister to greed.

In love the other is important; in lust you are important. ~ Indian guru Rajneesh

Owing to its feel-good power, lust is the by far the most popular of negative emotions. Lust slithers under the banner of passion, which is the generalized desire for animal satisfaction, geared up by adrenaline, aspiring a dopamine remedy.

Greed

It is not the man who has little, but he who desires more that is poor. ~ Roman philosopher Seneca

Greed is desire amplified: the inevitable mental product of embracing materialism. As materialism is culturally engendered, so too greed. Capitalism is a fertile breeding ground for greed.

In one having no regard for material goods beyond financial security, entertainment, and personal comfort, greed finds no ground in which to sprout. In such a person, contentment crowds out the prospect of greed.

When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses. ~ American politician Shirley Chisholm

Jealousy & Envy

Jealousy and envy spring from comparing our lot in life with that of others. ~ American psychologist Dan Ariely

Jealousy and envy are the opposite sides of a petty coin minted by social avarice. Both emotions promote malicious glee. An envious or jealous person positively enjoys hurting the object of its attention, or when the object suffers misfortune: schadenfreude.

“Jealousy lives upon suspicion; and it turns into a fury or ends as soon as it passes from suspicion to certainty.” ~ François de La Rochefoucauld

Whereas jealousy is typically based upon a sense of personal possessiveness, envy may be more abstract. People who identify with a particular group, such as a sports team, company, or nation, feel schadenfreude when the rival of that group suffers a mishap which lowers its standing.

Embarrassment

“To be embarrassed is to be placed in a temporary state of suspension by the unwanted scrutiny – sometimes critical, often not – of others. It is to be involuntarily placed at the epicentre of a particular social moment.” ~ English cultural historian Stuart Walton

Embarrassment arises from an awareness of a social fact in which one is riding colliding head-on with a sense of propriety. Darwin rightly pointed out that embarrassment is an emotion that feeds upon itself.

Canadian American sociologist Erving Goffman suggested that blushing and other signs of embarrassment are an evolutionary adaptation which serves as a nonverbal apology, as well as an indirect statement of moral worth. Lack of appropriate embarrassment suggests sociopathy.

“Embarrassment demonstrates that an individual is at least disturbed by the fact and may prove worthy at another time.” ~ Erving Goffman

Emotional Complexes

Most people value their emotions. This can do nothing but cause problems.

As creatures of habit, people easily fall into mental and behavioral patterns which are emotively based. A habit may either be a means to achieve a certain emotional state or to avoid it. The wellspring of such a pattern is an emotional complex.

Emotions can make such a strong impression as to warp the minds of those who hold on to them. These are typically termed psychological complexes, as their effects are debilitating; but the root of such complexes is emotional.

Persecution delusion is one of the more common psychological complexes: someone feeling intensely stressed and thwarted in achievement or expression begins to believe that others are out to hurt them.

Inferiority and superiority complexes are also fairly common. Those who feel inferior believe there is something fundamentally wrong with them. Self-loathing sets in.

Conversely, those with a superiority complex compensate for deep feelings of inferiority by convincing themselves, and commonly proclaiming to others, their superiority.

“We should not be astonished if in the cases where we see an inferiority complex, we find a superiority complex more or less hidden. On the other hand, if we inquire into a superiority complex and study its continuity, we can always find a more or less hidden inferiority complex.” ~ Alfred Adler

There are numerous psychological complexes which manifest depending upon the temperament and environment of the individual. All are manifestations of mental illness, rooted in firm belief in the machinations of the mind, beginning with embracing emotions.

Synopsis

“Emotion has the capacity to transform us profoundly. In different affective states, it is almost as if we are different people.” ~ American economist George Loewenstein

▫ A feeling is a perceptual reaction, often ecologically invoked. A feeling cognitively evolves into a more sustained emotion by disregarding rational indifference.

▫ Whereas feelings are transitory, emotions are remembered in the context in which they arise. Similar situations are likely to evoke selfsame emotions. By this habits and emotional complexes form.

“Thought is driven by emotion.” ~ Edward O. Wilson

▫ Emotions yoke awareness to the mind-body. Attachment to emotions is bondage to spiritual ignorance, and a steppingstone to mental illness.

“Cognition is never isolated from emotion. Emotion slants every thought we have and does so largely outside of consciousness.” ~ American psychologist Lisa Cohen